Just as bio-based resins with distinct properties moved bio-based resins into the consciousness of the plastics community, compounders and processors now are expanding how bioresins can be used by widening the properties of polylactic acid and other resins through additives or by blending them with other polymers.
Bioplastics are expanding into high-value, high-performance engineering applications, said Brian Balmer, performance materials industry principal for Frost & Sullivan Inc., in a phone interview.
Through crucial improvements to the production process and process chemistries, PLA along with polymers such as Sorona from DuPont and the polyamides from Arkema and others are moving increasingly into this space.
Jim Lunt of Jim Lunt & Associates LLC in Wayzata, Minn., agreed. People are looking to compound bioresins with other polymers to widen the property spectrum of bioresins.
Some other examples:
* RTP Co. in Winona, Minn., has developed several bioplastic specialty compounds for use in automotive interior and industrial component applications, semi-durable consumer goods, and housings and enclosures for electronics or business equipment. Six of the compounds are blended with other polymers, with 20-80 percent PLA. In addition, RTP has three polyamides with biocontent ranging from 31-43 percent and four polyester resins with 19-26 percent biocontent.
* BASF Corp.'s Ecovio FS paper and Ecovio FS shrink films made from a blend of BASF's starch-based Ecoflex and PLA are designed for use as coatings for paper cups and shrink films.
* Tianan Biologic Material Co. Ltd. is developing blends of PLA with its corn-based PHBV for packaging, film, housewares and disposable-product applications.
This will open up new applications for these polymers in areas such as automotive, electronics and consumer goods and provide a much-needed boost to the market in terms of investments, manpower and also technology solutions, said Balmer, who authored the recent Global Bio-based Plastic Market report from Frost & Sullivan Inc.
There's also activity in developing biodegradable products from bioresins. Just one example: Plastimin LLC in Carrollton, Texas, is developing a compostable trash bag from biopolymers in partnership with Heritage Bag Co. To do that, the two companies are currently looking at compounding Mirel-brand bioplastic from Metabolix Inc. with other biopolymers and calcium carbonate.
The development of a suitable compostable trash bag will require the blending of different compostable polymers, said Frank Ruiz, president of Plastimin and a research and development consultant to Heritage.
Ruiz spoke at the Emerging Trends in Plastic Packaging conference, held in Atlanta and sponsored by Jim Lunt & Associates and InnoPlast Solutions Inc. of Roswell, Ga.